Chile: Sharp increase in PV applications

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Chile’s solar energy market is on the verge of a veritable boom, with solar energy developers in Chile submitting a record 32 applications for projects totaling 2,455.25 MW of installed capacity for environmental evaluation to Chilean authorities in the first 8 months of 2012, according to the online environmental licensing database SEIA, which is managed by the Chilean Environmental Evaluation Service (SEA).

Eight applications for environmental licensing of solar projects totaling 1,358.16 MW have already been granted environmental permission, including 4 projects totaling 506.52 MW that received a green light from SEA on August 29.

The SEA is still considering 17 of the project submissions with a combined installed capacity of 738.72 MW, while the 7 remaining solar applications – including several projects submitted more than once – have been withdrawn, rejected or simply failed to qualify for environmental licenses. All 32 projects that were put forward, save the 360 MW solar thermal plant, Pedro de Valdivia, are based on photovoltaic technology.

The 8 projects submitted and approved this year include: 220 MW Los Andes (with an estimated cost of US$572 million proposed by AES Gener); 180 MW Crucero Solar ($400 million, Energías Renovables Fotones de Chile); 180 MW Encuentro Solar ($400 million, Energías Renovables Fotones de Chile); 159.67 MW Domeyko 2 ($447 million, Helio Atacama Cinco); 111.97 MW Domeyko Este ($314 million, Helio Atacama Seis); 76.72 MW Laberinto Este ($215 million, Helio Atacama Tres), 69.8 MW Laberinto Oeste ($195 million, Helio Atacama Cuatro) and 360 MW Pedro de Valdivia ($2.61 billion, Ibereólica Solar Atacama).

Booming interest for solar energy development in Chile and grid parity achieved for photovoltaic energy in some parts of the country recently prompted renewable market research company ClearSky Advisors to increase by almost 13% to 1,520 MW, its cumulative capacity forecast for Chile’s photovoltaic market between 2012 and 2016.

Admittedly, the Chilean solar market is still in the early stages of development. Although there are 883 MW, or 73 renewable energy plants operating in Chile, the country has only 1 large grid-connected solar plant in operation, the Calama Solar 3 plant in Atacama. Calama Solar 3 is operated by Spain-based Solarpack and Chilean state-run copper producer Codelco.

Construction is, nevertheless, underway on 263 MW of new renewable energy capacity, including 2.5 MW of new solar capacity, according to new analysis of the national renewable energy market, published by Chile’s state-run Center of Renewable Energy (CER) on August 30.

The September edition of pv magazine will feature a special article on photovoltaic development in Chile. Meanwhile, Solarpraxis’ Conferencia de la Industria Solar in Madrid, Spain and the 4th PV Power Plants Conference in Phoenix, Arizona will discuss the Chilean photovoltaic market in detail.